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Karaoke love for Taylor Swift at Werewolf

Karaoke songs work best when everyone knows them, when the whole bar becomes your back-up choir

Werewolf before its nightly transformation.
Werewolf before its nightly transformation.
Place

Werewolf American Pub

627 Fourth Avenue, San Diego

The Lamplighter in Mission Hills is, in its own estimation, “San Diego’s Favorite Dive & Karaoke Bar.” This may be true, and I’ve had a good time there myself, but for the purposes of this column, let me take you across town, right to the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, and into Werewolf, where I have seen some memorable Friday night karaoke moments. An ancient crone in leopard print, interrupting her rendition of “One Love” to scream at the boisterous crowd to “Shut the f...k up!!” A girl wheeling her broken-leg scooter through the packed bodies to howl powerfully through the Cranberries’ “Zombie.” A middle-aged man with a big belly, blonde buzzcut, and sneakers doing a mellifluous Phantom of the Opera number.

But forget about all of those for now, because one mysterious man here has raised karaoke to a level I hadn’t dreamed possible. It’s nine or ten on a Friday night. The place is full, and most of the singing is happening in a cozy little open spot on the floor in front of the lyrics monitor. There’s no stage.

As our man’s turn comes around, he rises from his stool and approaches the bartender-cum-karaoke master to take the microphone. He is thirty-ish, Asian, short, and stout. He looks like fun incarnate: mullet, mustache, fanny pack, Crocs.

We were both young when I first saw you

I close my eyes and the flashback starts

I’m standin’ there

On a balcony in summer air

His delivery of the first lines of Taylor Swift’s romantic anthem is energetic but controlled. He makes eye contact with the crowd. He moves around as he sings, craning his head this way and that, swaying and smiling. He has made a good choice. My friend points out, that karaoke songs work best when everyone knows them, when the whole bar becomes your back-up choir. Familiarity is good. But “Love Story” also hails from 2008, so it’s nostalgic as well as familiar. And what person, drunk on a Friday night, doesn’t want to holler along to a song that they first heard at a college kegger, or after a swoony teenage date? And hey, boys — it’s also safe for you in here — everyone’s joining in. You can sing Taylor Swift’s song too.

The song approaches the chorus: Beggin’ you, ‘Please don’t go,’ and I said...

Our man embodies the crescendo, moving faster and faster, shout-singing louder and louder, with most of Werewolf keeping up. Now he is practically running — first through the bar, and then out onto 4th Avenue.

Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone

I’ll be waiting, all there’s left to do is run

You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess

It’s a love story, baby, just say, “Yes”

He is clutching his cordless microphone, bringing the party into the streets, mullet blowing in the breeze, fannypack bouncing. Finally, triumphantly, he returns to the bar to finish his number, snugly surrounded by his new fans. Applause and smiles.

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Werewolf before its nightly transformation.
Werewolf before its nightly transformation.
Place

Werewolf American Pub

627 Fourth Avenue, San Diego

The Lamplighter in Mission Hills is, in its own estimation, “San Diego’s Favorite Dive & Karaoke Bar.” This may be true, and I’ve had a good time there myself, but for the purposes of this column, let me take you across town, right to the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, and into Werewolf, where I have seen some memorable Friday night karaoke moments. An ancient crone in leopard print, interrupting her rendition of “One Love” to scream at the boisterous crowd to “Shut the f...k up!!” A girl wheeling her broken-leg scooter through the packed bodies to howl powerfully through the Cranberries’ “Zombie.” A middle-aged man with a big belly, blonde buzzcut, and sneakers doing a mellifluous Phantom of the Opera number.

But forget about all of those for now, because one mysterious man here has raised karaoke to a level I hadn’t dreamed possible. It’s nine or ten on a Friday night. The place is full, and most of the singing is happening in a cozy little open spot on the floor in front of the lyrics monitor. There’s no stage.

As our man’s turn comes around, he rises from his stool and approaches the bartender-cum-karaoke master to take the microphone. He is thirty-ish, Asian, short, and stout. He looks like fun incarnate: mullet, mustache, fanny pack, Crocs.

We were both young when I first saw you

I close my eyes and the flashback starts

I’m standin’ there

On a balcony in summer air

His delivery of the first lines of Taylor Swift’s romantic anthem is energetic but controlled. He makes eye contact with the crowd. He moves around as he sings, craning his head this way and that, swaying and smiling. He has made a good choice. My friend points out, that karaoke songs work best when everyone knows them, when the whole bar becomes your back-up choir. Familiarity is good. But “Love Story” also hails from 2008, so it’s nostalgic as well as familiar. And what person, drunk on a Friday night, doesn’t want to holler along to a song that they first heard at a college kegger, or after a swoony teenage date? And hey, boys — it’s also safe for you in here — everyone’s joining in. You can sing Taylor Swift’s song too.

The song approaches the chorus: Beggin’ you, ‘Please don’t go,’ and I said...

Our man embodies the crescendo, moving faster and faster, shout-singing louder and louder, with most of Werewolf keeping up. Now he is practically running — first through the bar, and then out onto 4th Avenue.

Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone

I’ll be waiting, all there’s left to do is run

You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess

It’s a love story, baby, just say, “Yes”

He is clutching his cordless microphone, bringing the party into the streets, mullet blowing in the breeze, fannypack bouncing. Finally, triumphantly, he returns to the bar to finish his number, snugly surrounded by his new fans. Applause and smiles.

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